Jorgen Jorgenson was a Dane who made Britain his adopted country, and became caught up in its story at opposite ends of the earth. The son of a Copenhagen clockmaker, inspired by his hero Captain Cook, he came to London. Here he became a sailor and at 23 was among a small party sent to establish a new colony - Tasmania. Twists of fate found him captaining a ship for Napoleon against Britain- captured, his life was under threat. He escaped execution, but next a pile of London gambling debts drove him to sail with British traders to Iceland. Now comes his long-dreamed of moment of glory. When Danish officials in Iceland bar their trade, Jorgenson and his fellows (including the young botanist William Jackson Hooker) simply stage a coup. For 7 summer months Jorgenson rules Iceland, claiming it free from Danish rule, it's ancient rights restored and 'at peace with all the nations of the world'. A British warship arrives, and his rule is at an end, but on the journey home, Jorgen is a hero once more, saving them all from a fire at sea. ot yet 30, much lay ahead, from imprisonment in the hulks, patronage by the British establishment, and travels in Europe as a British spy. But Jo
Sarah Bakewell was until recently a Curator at the Wellcome Institute Library, London. She recently curated an exhibition with Marina Warner for the Science Museum and is the author of The Smart. She spent part of her childhood & adolescence in Australia, where her parents now live.